When the Falcons and Buccaneers face off at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, one of the most important matchups that will take place will be between Atlanta's secondary and Tampa Bay's two best wideouts, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.
Although Evans and Jackson missed seven combined games in 2015, they accounted for nearly one-third of quarterback Jameis Winston's completions. The duo was also a big reason why Tampa ranked fourth in the NFL in plays of 20-plus yards: Evans and Jackson averaged 16.3 and 16.5 yards per catch, respectively.
Winston knows it will be important to get that pair involved on Sunday. And he knows Atlanta's cornerbacks, specifically Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, will make it hard to do so.
"(Trufant's) a true professional. He's a lockdown guy," Winston said. "You definitely have to keep an eye on him at all times. And Alford, man, he's truly blessed. He has a lot of great tangibles. A great cover corner — great speed, and he's long. So I definitely have to have my attention up for those guys."
In two games against the Bucs last season, Trufant and Alford allowed seven receptions on 15 targets for 108 yards. Trufant surrendered a touchdown during their first bout of the year, but when they met for a second time, he gave up only three catches and hauled in a second-quarter interception.
"It's always a great matchup going against (Evans and Jackson)," Trufant said Monday. "They've been doing it for a long time. We always compete, battle, so it's definitely a good matchup. I'm ready for it.
"(Winston) was already a good player last year, and he's just going to get better. In the preseason he was really sharp, definitely throwing the deep ball very well. So we have to be ready to make those plays when he throws it up."